Five things we learnt from the three-match Twenty20 series between India and Sri Lanka, a tune-up before the Asia Cup and the World Twenty20, which starts in India on March 8. India won the series 2-1.
1. Ashwin lethal on home turf
Ravichandran Ashwin underlined his status as India’s talisman with a career-best 4-8 in Sunday’s decider when he again opened the bowling. The lanky off-spinner took nine wickets in the three matches, sounding a warning to all opposition batsmen heading to India for the World T20 next month. An economy rate of 3.18 was equally outstanding. Ashwin has no complaints about the workload, saying: “I hope this lasts forever.”
2. Dhawan can be a T20 match-winner
Full marks to India’s selectors for persisting with Shikhar Dhawan at the top of the order despite his barren spell in the shortest format. The left-hander, a regular match-winner in Tests and ODIs, failed to make a half-century in his first dozen T20 internationals. But it was 13th time lucky on Friday when his blistering knock of 51 off 25 balls in Ranchi laid the foundations for India’s emphatic win. Brimful of confidence, he then top-scored in the finale in Visakhapatnam with an unbeaten 46, nailing down his spot for the Asia Cup and the World T20 in the process.
3. Dhoni, the leader
After India were outclassed in last month’s ODI series against Australia, there were serious question marks over MS Dhoni’s continued effectiveness as a leader. Not any more. Fresh from captaining his team to a stunning 3-0 whitewash over their hosts in the T20s in Australia, Dhoni followed it up against Sri Lanka with his first series win on home soil. Although he only had limited opportunities with the bat, his agile glovework to bring about a couple of sharp stumpings showed the 34-year-old wicketkeeper’s reflexes are as sharp as ever. Inspired by his lead, India’s fielders bristled with energy and enthusiasm.
4. Sri Lanka missing their big guns
Their unexpected opening win gave the depleted Sri Lankans some hope, but subsequent meek surrenders made it clear the islanders need their stars back fast to have any chance of defending their World T20 and Asia Cup crowns. T20 captain Lasith Malinga, his Test counterpart Angelo Mathews and premier spinner Rangana Herath were sorely missed as they rested at home. Stand-in-captain Dinesh Chandimal did his best to rally the rookies but conceded they would have to bounce back quickly. “Didn’t perform well throughout the series as batsmen. Losing wickets happens with an inexperienced team. We need to regroup as a team,” Chandimal said.
5. India’s enduring T20 romance
Despite problems with New Delhi as a venue which necessitated a last-minute switch to Ranchi, the matches in three of India’s lesser-known stadiums drew very decent crowds, a welcome relief to the World T20 organisers as they prepare to put tickets on sale. Even Sunday’s showdown in Visakhapatnam on Valentine’s Day was played in front of a packed house, underlining India’s enduring romance with its cricketing heroes.
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